25 October 2021

Santa Speedo Shuffle founder Andrew Prowse farewelled by cystic fibrosis community

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Runners dressed as Santa

Santa Speedo Shuffle runners braved midwinter chills to raise funds and awareness of cystic fibrosis. Photo: Supplied.

Canberrans are a hardy lot, but even regular lake walkers have been startled by the sight of hundreds of people dressed in little more than red Speedos and a Santa hat running around the lake in mid-winter for the annual Santa Speedo Shuffle.

The wonderfully bonkers fundraiser was the brainchild of Heidi and Andrew Prowse, who lost his long fight with cystic fibrosis earlier this month at the age of 34.

On average, one Australian child is born with cystic fibrosis (CF) every four days. There is currently no cure, although lung transplants can improve the length and quality of life for sufferers. The average life expectancy for Australians born today with CF is approximately 38 years and it’s the most common life-shortening genetic condition in Australia.

Andrew and Heidi grew up in Tamworth but met in Canberra, where they married in 2015. Heidi, who now runs Mental Illness Education ACT and received the 2019 Canberra Women in Business Social Impact award, became the CEO of the Cystic Fibrosis ACT.

Man in glasses with dog

Andrew Prowse, with family dog Monty. Photo: Facebook.

The Speedo Shuffle was born of frustration at CF’s low profile in the community and started with a pub run to the Kingo in 2011. Over eight years, it blossomed to include more than 170 runners in 2019, before the pandemic hit.

Initially, the local CF community were the main participants, but in more recent years, runners who were not personally connected with the disorder but just wanted to help came on board.

Andrew had benefited from a double lung transplant at St Vincent’s Hospital in 2017 and subsequently returned to work, travelled overseas, and bought a home with Heidi.

But he battled organ rejection and further complications. His health deteriorated this year and he spent time in Sydney and in the Canberra Hospital before dying at home.

“While losing him is something I don’t know how to comprehend right now, I do feel comfort in knowing his life was full, our love overflowed oceans and he helped others even on a hard day for him. Because that’s the type of person he was”, Heidi said on social media.

READ ALSO Santa Speedo Shuffle supports forgotten cystic fibrosis sufferers

Cystic Fibrosis ACT described Andrew as “an indispensable member of the Cystic Fibrosis ACT (CFACT) committee”, who had helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the CF community in Canberra, and surrounding areas, enabling CFACT to provide ongoing support to their members.

“It is with heartfelt sadness that we say goodbye to a cherished member of our community. Andy Prowse’s battle has come to an end”, the CFACT Facebook page said.

People running in red Speedos

Santa Speedo Shuffle 2018: the novel event helped bring much-needed awareness to cystic fibrosis. Image supplied

Before the 2019 Shuffle, CFACT CEO Claire Leonard told Region Media that the disorder had often been ignored in the past because people with CF had shortened life expectancy and there were no useful treatments. But the lifespan for sufferers has now increased significantly, along with a boost in awareness and research that gives well supported CF patients many more opportunities in life.

“Andy had a lot to teach the world. I found this in his notes after he passed away,” Heidi wrote.

“The way to get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community, and to devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”

Donations to CFACT in memory of Andrew Prowse can be made here.

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